The sound associated with crepitus may be muffled or it may be loud enough for other people to hear. Hearing occasional pops, snaps, and crackles when you bend your knees doesn’t necessarily mean you have arthritis. Other joints might even make these noises now and then, too. However, the sounds are common in those with arthritis.
Over time, gas can build up in the areas surrounding the joint, forming tiny bubbles in the synovial fluid. When you bend your knee, some of the bubbles burst and ligaments may snap or pop. This is normal and happens to everyone from time to time. As we age, the tissue that covers the bones, called cartilage, can develop uneven areas. When we squat or stand, sounds come from these rougher surfaces gliding across each other. It could also be the tissue that connects bones to other bones, called ligaments, tightening as you move, or the joint lining moving over bones.
Crepitus in the knee is common and usually painless. There’s no need to be concerned about it. However, pain that accompanies the crackling and popping sounds could indicate a problem
Knee crepitus is one of the common symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA) on the other hand, it damages cartilage and bone. As the damaged knee joint moves, it may crackle and crunch.
Crepitus in the knees may be caused by knee injuries such as meniscus tears. These are fairly common in people who play sports, jog or run. A meniscus tear can cause crepitus as the joint moves.
Chondromalacia patella is a dull ache behind the kneecap, usually caused by overuse or injury. There will be damage to the undersurface cartilage covering the kneecap.
Patellofemoral syndrome, or runner’s knee, is caused by a force overload on the patella that occurs before there’s actual damage to the joint surface of the patella. This syndrome can lead to chondromalacia patella. If you have chondromalacia patella, you’ll feel and hear a painful crunching and grating when you move your knee.
If other knee symptoms do develop, it is important to have your situation evaluated right away. When left untreated, some knee conditions including osteoarthritis can lead to increasing pain, joint damage, and, eventually, disability. But if identified and treated promptly, most knee problems can be successfully managed.
How to prevent?
To help prevent additional knee problems, work on strengthening the muscles in the front of your thigh called the quadriceps. Walking, biking, and swimming can all be useful for strengthening the quadriceps muscle.
A variety of exercises that directly target the quadriceps, both with and without weights, also may be helpful. If you have questions about specific exercises or if you have other medical conditions, talk to your doctor or a physical therapist before beginning a new exercise program.
Strong quadriceps can take some of the load off your patellofemoral joint. That makes it less likely the cartilage in the joint will wear down. Also, to help prevent further cartilage damage and other knee injuries, avoid overloading the joint when your knee is bent.
Glucosamine, especially in combination with chondroitin, is a common treatment for arthritis. Fish oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, may be useful as well. Both are available in tablet or capsule form. Find a great selection of fish oil here.
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